W5126 TO [REV.] CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his sister Ruby
Apr 22 1904 [date listed in Whitehern Calendar] Friday
To: [Rev.] Calvin McQuesten Standoff, Alberta,
From: Presbyterian [Ottawa] Ladies' College Ottawa, Ontario
My dearest Cal,
You are an awful boy and I really think you need just a real scolding to cheer you up. That other scolding seemed to have the wrong effect and didn't do a bit of good. Oh I'll have to think of an awful one to give you someday. You may not get it for some years: for I'll be scratching my unfortunate brains to think of something to wax worthy on.
My dear old Cal--to think of your giving it to yourself in that way! But I know how you feel. Sometimes it seems to me so hopeless to think of changing my own natural wicked self. And don't think you're the only member of our family naturally lazy as you say. It has been a perfect struggle with me all along. The thought of anything extra coming to be done always caused an inward groan and I'd be so ashamed of myself for kicking about things to be done and feeling awfully injured at extra demands because one had to do things.
And really Cal I used to try and pray and I just seemed to be getting more careless and more unhappy. It seemed to me I was on the wrong track someway and I didn't enjoy my Bible and found so little in it and often only read a scrap and sometimes when I was very busy I didn't read any, because it seemed such hypocrisy. And when I would read or sing "I love to go into Thy House" etc., it seemed something I didn't feel. And Sunday was a dreary sort of day--I wanted to read story books and because I felt that was too far I shoved myself out Sunday after Sunday to teach my Chinamen and so at first I couldn't teach them the gospel anyway. I hope I didn't do them any harm.
And then it came to me just how I was going, not forward. but slipping backwards and all my professions of Christianity and all my good thoughts and hopes and I felt how much superior so many people were who had no such professions and I thought, What is my hope after all--I'm just a poor, weak character, and will never do anything and will grow old and awfully fat and heavy like some of these enormous women you see and I'll be a burden to myself and to those around me.
And I just prayed to God and said that I had tried and tried and could do nothing and that I was his creature and he had made me and didn't make me for a curse but for a blessing and he must make me a servant for Him for I could do nothing. And I felt it so strongly that I was utterly past helping myself that I think for the first time, I yielded myself [what?] up to God. And I prayed that God, not for anything I had done, but because Christ had died for sinners not for just people but sinners and I knew was one. And I prayed that God according as he valued his Son and Christ's blood shed for us so he would not for my sake or anything I had done, but because I was one of the sinners for whom Christ's precious blood was shed, that he would save me and use me and make me to understand the love of God and Christ Jesus, and that he would give me the Holy Spirit in my heart and that it might take possession of my heart and teach me about God and lead me and guide me. For I felt so powerless and yet I felt that if He was God it was not beyond Him to really give me a new heart. And I prayed that he would fulfill his promise in Ezekiel 36:26,27--"And I will put my spirit within you and cause (make) you to walk in my statues, and ye shall keep my judgements and do them." And in Ezekiel 11:19 & Jeremiah 24:4 and in another place, "I will put my laws in the minds & write them upon the tables of their hearts." And then we are told that all the promises of God in Him are [?] and in Him Amen.
And what appealed to me was that God had promised to make us to walk in his Commandments & to himself put a new heart within us and I took hold of it and tho' it didn't come to me all in one day, yet the whole meaning seemed to dawn on me with consciousness that that [sic] I was one of God's creatures and I had given myself to Him & the responsibility of my own sinful nature Christ had taken off from me and God's Spirit would guide me now and keep me in God's way, and I could trust him to teach me as rapidly as possible.
So often I realize how much of my life has been wasted and so little real study of the Bible done. You have all along been engaged in some real Bible study or work but I haven't and I have so very much to learn that it is enough to discourage me. But He can help me and he is going to make something of both of us--I don't mean something the world calls great--but he is going to make us so that we can be of service to him so that he can send his light through us.
And Cal dear I feel it even more strongly for you, far more strong & I don't think I am saying it because I think too much of you. I know you have some grand qualities that God is just waiting to use greatly for his work on earth. He has some way and we cannot see his guiding but he is going to "make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight."
Sometimes it seems as if we advance so gradually in the Christian life, and we ask for things we cannot accept. For instance, a child asks her music teacher to teach her to play & interpret Beethoven. The music teacher promises she will but she starts at the beginning, at the exercises and it takes years before the child learns Mozart or Beethoven [sic], but the teacher is fulfilling her promise. And so it is I think with us--we'll have to do start & keep on and go back & learn and look forward & not backward. The seed grows slowly but it grows. It comforts one Cal that we hear nothing of the "hidden years of Nazareth." Christ, the perfect man, was thirty years of age before we hear of the great work done. All that time he was growing in wisdom and stature and in favor with God & man.
And Cal dear, this is only your 27th birthday and will be my 25th. We're not any older than lots of people about our age who have lived life easily. We haven't--lived life easily and we shouldn't consequently pull ourselves more to pieces and feel far more responsibility than others. So let us both set aside "the weight that doth so easily oppress us and run with patience the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith,"
I have found the regular Bible study for each day is helpful. I'm glad Mama is sending you the books. Sometimes when things were crowded I would find it hard to really fix my mind on something I was reading but with these questions I felt I must honestly answer them to the best of my ability, and so would keep my mind fixed and would pray the Holy Spirit to teach me things I couldn't understand & every lesson has seemed more helpful. There are books out teaching in a similar way the other books of the New Testament & also the Old Testament parts of it--And only wish it didn't take so long to go thro' one set. It would be nice if we could be going thro' these books at the same time. I'll be glad to get you any of these books when you want them and send them to you.1
Well, this is a powerfully long letter and I must send your Birthday note on another sheet. I'll be utterly broken if I have to use four double sheets of paper on you often, Mr. McQ.
Very Many Happy Returns of the Day, my very dear brother. May this Birthday be a very happy opening for a very happy New Year. The sun's shining, the first real spring sunshine and I've taken it as a sign for the coming years.
The little water color I'm sending you is only a little thing a copy of one of Turner's but it has heaps of love with it.
Your Birthday is a sort of thanksgiving for me also, honey, for I thank God that I have a brother whom I can love and understand and trust and who has the same feelings for me. It isn't every girl who has a brother she can be so fond of dear, and it is something to be thankful for.
I'm sending this mounted this way, for Jarmann who does the College mounting & art work etc., did it for me and assured me it would be no more difficult to do up than sending it in a roll and it would be safe [even] to England. So be sure and tell me if the mounting is cracked or anything wrong for really I'd almost like [it] if it were, he was so dreadfully confident. I would have liked to send you several water colors and I have some fresh breezy looking ones I'll send you later but you know all art work we're supposed to keep till June for the sake of Miss Curry's exhibit, and so many have been taking [classes in] what she considers the lower branches of [art] china painting and wood work, and so few oils and water colors, that I really didn't dare to suggest sending more than one. It is such a wee one too but the various people here liked it better than the larger ones and it has a cheery little sunset. I took a great fancy for it and then I was quite interested to see it was one of Turner's. Think of me attempting to copy Turner!2
By the way, did you get the cartoon of Thomas? If you didn't I'll send you mine to see. It is very comical.
Well, Sonny dear, my tongue must stop wagging, tho' it does wag on so easily to you. Don't worry yourself that it is wholly laziness that makes you dislike doing things. I know, even tho' you say you're fat & well--I'm always fat--and there is often real physical weariness & I think it is that tho' we look well, we're not really robust & all the more honor to us if we do something.
Hurrah, Sonny, it's time I stopped--with heaps of love, a good hug & Birthday best wishes.
1 Ruby and Calvin are both religious and she is very frank about her struggle with her faith and tries to encourage Calvin. He is considering becoming a minister.
Earlier in the letter, in the 2nd paragraph, Ruby comments that she & Calvin are both "naturally lazy" and find it a "struggle" to get things done. She also states in this letter that neither is "really robust" and both suffer "physical weariness." Later in the letter she states her fondness for Calvin and suggests that they are kindred spirits--they are both scholarly and artistic.
Cal was born with a physical disability, a slightly withered left hand, some weakness on the left side, and he suffered several mental breakdowns under stress. Ruby became ill while teaching at the Ottawa college, and was variously diagnosed with grippe, cough, bronchitis, and by June 1908, she was having regular treatments to have her throat sprayed, she was sent top two sanatoriums and in April 1911 she died of tuberculosis. (See W6135, W9058).
2 Many of Ruby's paintings are on display at Whitehern, and she won some prizes for her work.